If reading is a passion of yours, I hope you’ll enjoy this new monthly feature where I share what I read the previous month. And if you’re not a passionate reader (YET!), I hope that one of my titles will inspire you to begin!
Last year I read 21 books, which was more than recent years, and as I compiled my 2023 list, I realized they were almost exclusively non-fiction. It made sense for my goals last year and I learned a LOT! But I missed reading for sheer pleasure, no learning required. So, this year I had a goal of not only reading even more but including plenty of non-fiction as well.
Why the sudden focus on reading?
One of my lifelong dreams has been to become a writer, more specifically, a published author. This dream lies dormant for periods of time and comes out of hibernation when I least expect it.
Last summer I was feeling rather discouraged with my first six months of entrepreneurship. As I moped through a mentoring session, feeling quite stuck in my business, my mentor asked, “Forget what you think you should be doing right now, what do you ENJOY doing?“
I paused for a moment, then replied, “Well, I like writing and creating cute graphics, but I don’t see how that will build my business.” My mentor offered, “What if you didn’t worry about building a business for the time being and just followed your curiosity, your passions?”
It sounded like an indulgent, fanciful idea, but also incredibly enticing. Just the thought of taking all the pressure off myself to create a business and results and money felt like one long exhale of relief.
The next morning, I woke up, went through my usual morning routine and instead of fitting my day into a strictly orchestrated Google calendar full of (hopefully) income producing activities, I cleared everything except actual appointments from my calendar. I logged into my website, updated my blog page which had lain dormant for a year or so, wrote a new post and hit publish.
The emotions I felt that morning ranged from fearful to calm to anxious to exhilarated. I didn’t know where this new path would lead me, but it felt like I was moving forward naturally for the first time in a long time. Within a month I decided to write a book and six months later, that book is beginning to take its final form.
On Writing (and reading)
As I began writing again, I was reminded of Stephen King’s book on writing, which ironically is called “On Writing“. I read it when it was first published and read the 20th anniversary edition again last summer. One of my biggest takeaways from the book is this quote:
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.
Now that I had decided to follow my passion and begin writing in earnest, I no longer viewed reading as a luxury reserved for my free time only (rare) or relegated to non-fiction books, highlighter at the ready. Reading was going to be my new writing partner, lavishing me with insight, inspiration, comfort, challenge and energy.
Back to the topic at hand! My January reading was a mix of historic true crime, cozy British murder mysteries and an adventure memoir. Here is my list with a few reflections of my experience with each book.
- Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King. A true crime saga that begins with a grave miscarriage of justice in 1940s Central Florida. An important read for anyone interested in racial justice, Florida history and/or Thurgood Marshall. It was a sobering read, but one that will stick with me for years to come.
- Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves. A cozy British mystery featuring the one and only Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope. This story has all the trappings of a classic British whodunit and may hold special interest for any ardent birders. Vera is also a much-loved series on Britbox.
- The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. In this book, Cleeves introduces Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, who is a delightful mystery in himself. The story line is quite complex and will keep you guessing right up to the very end. I found resonating with this story as DI Venn navigates the emotions of a return to his hometown, family and members of a closed religious community. This book was made into a 4-episode series on Britbox, which is IMO even better than the book, which is rare indeed.
- So Long as It’s Wild by Barbara Jenkins. This memoir chronicles Barbara’s experience as a newlywed walking from New Orleans, Louisiana to the Oregon Pacific Coast in the mid-1970s. The format is delightful as each chapter alternates between stories of her childhood to stories from the walk, until they finally collide and become her story (herstory?).
OUR LITTLE FREE LIBRARY IS READY FOR READERS!
My first home project of 2024 was to install a Little Free Library on our property to help share my love of reading, and frankly, meet more of my neighbors! We’ve been pretty successful at meeting local dog walkers, but not many others. We are hoping our “LFL” will be a win-win for our community and us. We are located in south Lakeland, FL. If you’d like to visit, type “Chez Slay Book Nook” into the map search and stop on by! (photo at top of page)
Finding happiness in the pursuit,
Betsy is a certified life coach, running coach and blogger who helps midlife women find satisfaction where they are now and inspiration to go after their big goals.
To learn more about working with Betsy, click here.